Book Summary: The Power of Full Engagement

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal. – Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz; Free Press, NY 2003 

Book summary by Nando Raynolds

This is written by a pair of experienced corporate coaches.  Jim is a performance psychologist, so has worked with hundreds of athletes as well.  Together they developed the Corporate Athlete Training System; this book is an overview of that system.

This overview is the most comprehensive and rational map for developing higher levels of personal and corporate performance I’ve seen other than my own 7 Keys Program.  I’ll offer a brief summary here and if you’re interested I strongly recommend you read the book.  There is a summary of the system in the back along with some good forms.

Each of us can benefit from training to be able to sustain high performance in the face of increasing demand.

Energy is the currency of high performance and your capacity is the ability to both expend and recover energy.  It is the most important personal and organizational resource.  Every thought, feeling and action has an energy consequence.

Full engagement is the expression of optimal energy in the context of performance and is only possible through the skillful management of energy in these four dimensions: physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned.

The most fundamental source of energy is physical, but the most significant is spiritual. Training physically gives you quantity (low to high), emotionally – quality (negative to positive), mentally – focus (broad to narrow and internal to external), spiritually – force (self to others, internal to external, and negative to positive).

Rhythmic (interval) training is the key – challenging stress followed by recovery.  Undertraining (common physically and spiritually) leads to weakness, overtraining (common emotionally and mentally) leads to burnout/exhaustion.  To build capacity we have to push beyond our normal limits AND recover.  Positive energy rituals (patterns of refreshment that are habitual and require no conscious decision making to execute) are central to maintaining a balanced life and the positive energy required for full engagement. High positive energy flows from the perception of opportunity, adventure and challenge – negative energy is precipitated by the perception of threat, danger and fears of survival.

Training requires confronting your barriers to full engagement, your negative habits that block, distort, waste, diminish, deplete and contaminate your energy.  Then you need to establish strategic positive energy rituals that insure sufficient capacity in all 4 dimensions.

Their training program starts with the spiritual – defining what is most important to you, your central purpose.  Then you need to confront how you are actually spending your energy, then you need to define a rational plan for change and take action.


High Energy Negative:                                    High positive (target state):

Angry, Fearful, Anxious,                                    Invigorated, Confident, Challenged                       Defensive, Resentful                                                Joyful, Connected

Low Negative            :                                                Low Positive (resting):

Depressed, Exhausted,                               Relaxed, Mellow, Peaceful                                 Burned out, Hopeless, Defeated                        Tranquil, Serene


Supportive habits/skills: Physical: sleep, diet, exercise, hydration. Emotional: Patience, openness, trust, enjoyment. Mental: Visualization, positive self-talk and attitude, mental preparation.  Spiritual: Honesty, integrity, courage, persistence.

These support:

Primary capacities/skills: Physical: muscles and organs. Emotional: self-confidence, self-regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, empathy/caring.  Mental: Focus, realistic optimism, time management, creativity.  Spiritual: Character, integrity passion/commitment, service to others.

These support overall energy management – the quantity, quality, focus and force of energy available.  Which in turn supports being fully engaged – energized, connected, focused and spiritually aligned.


There’s the summary.  They also include some recommendations for diet (eat frequently -5x/day), some info on glycemic index of foods, time limited work periods (90 min) and bunches of illustrative and inspiring stories from their work.

I hope you find this useful, and if this kind of organization is useful in helping you focus your efforts for improving your life, read the book.  And I strongly encourage you to attend some of the “Life In Balance; The 7 Keys” programs I’m doing with Maria.


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